Gregory of Sinai: Calling on the Name of Jesus Friday, Aug 30 2013 

Gregory of SinaiNo one can master the intellect [nous]** unless he himself is mastered by the Spirit.

For the intellect is uncontrollable, not because it is by nature ever-active, but because through our continual remissness it has been given over to distraction and has become used to that.

When we violated the commandments of Him who in baptism regenerates us we separated ourselves from God and lost our conscious awareness of Him and our union with Him.

Sundered from that union and estranged from God, the intellect is led captive everywhere; and it cannot regain its stability unless it submits to God and is stilled by Him, joyfully uniting with Him through unceasing and diligent prayer and through noetically confessing all our lapses to Him each day.

God immediately forgives everything to those who ask forgiveness in a spirit of humility and contrition and who ceaselessly invoke His holy name. As the Psalmist says, “Confess to the Lord and call upon His holy name” (Psalms 105:1).

Holding the breath also helps to stabilize the intellect, but only temporarily, for after a little it lapses into distraction again. But when prayer is activated, then it really does keep the intellect in its presence, and it gladdens it and frees it from captivity.

But it may sometimes happen that the intellect, rooted in the heart, is praying, yet the mind wanders and gives its attention to other things; for the mind is brought under control only in those who have been made perfect by the Holy Spirit and who have attained a state of total concentration upon Christ Jesus.

In the case of a beginner in the art of spiritual warfare, God alone can expel thoughts, for it is only those strong in such warfare who are in a position to wrestle with them and banish them. Yet even they do not achieve this by themselves, but they fight against them with God’s assistance, clothed in the armor of His grace.

So when thoughts invade you, in place of weapons call on the Lord Jesus frequently and persistently and then they will retreat; for they cannot bear the warmth produced in the heart by prayer and they flee as if scorched by fire.

St. John Climacus tells us, “Lash your enemies with the name of Jesus,” because God is a fire that cauterizes wickedness (Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29). The Lord is prompt to help, and will speedily come to the defense of those who wholeheartedly call on Him day and night (Luke 18:7).

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On Prayer, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 276-278.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Gregory and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

Gregory of Sinai: Prayer Is God, Who Accomplishes Everything In Everyone Monday, Jun 24 2013 

Gregory of SinaiFor beginners prayer is like a joyous fire kindled in the heart; for the perfect it is like a vigorous sweet-scented light.

Or again, prayer is the preaching of the Apostles, an action of faith or, rather, faith itself, ‘that makes real for us the things for which we hope’ (Heb. 11:1),

active love, angelic impulse, the power of the bodiless spirits, their work and delight, the Gospel of God,

the heart’s assurance, hope of salvation, a sign of purity, a token of holiness, knowledge of God,

baptism made manifest, purification in the water of regeneration, a pledge of the Holy  Spirit,

the exultation of Jesus, the soul’s delight, God’s mercy, a sign of reconciliation, the seal of Christ,

a ray of the noetic sun, the heart’s dawn-star, the confirmation of the Christian faith, the disclosure of reconciliation with God,

God’s grace, God’s wisdom or, rather, the origin of true and absolute Wisdom; the revelation of God, the work of monks, the life of hesychasts, the source of stillness, and expression of the angelic state.

Why say more? Prayer is God, who accomplishes everything in everyone (cf 1 Cor. 12:6), for there is a single action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, activating all things through Christ Jesus.

[...] ‘As the body without the spirit is dead’ (Jas. 2:26) and insensate, so if you have been deadened by the passions through neglecting the commandments after your baptism the Holy Spirit and the grace of Christ cease to operate in you and to enlighten you;

for though you possess the Spirit, since you have faith and have been regenerated through baptism, yet the Spirit is quiescent and inactive within you because of the deadness of your soul.

[...] The Spirit of Christ is present with integral wholeness in all who are members of Christ, activating and generating life in all capable of participating in it; and in His compassion He still sustains even those who through some weakness do not actively participate in the life of the Spirit.

In this way each of the faithful participates, by virtue of his faith, in adoption to sonship through the Spirit; but should he grow negligent and fail to sustain his faith he will become inert and benighted, deprived of Christ’s life and light.

Such is the state of each of the faithful who, though a member of Christ and possessing the Spirit of Christ, fails to activate this Spirit within himself and so is stagnant, incapable of participating positively in the life of grace.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On Commandments and Doctrines, chs 113, 129, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 237-238; 248.

Gregory of Sinai: The Kingdom of Heaven as the Liturgy of the Deified Thursday, Dec 20 2012 

Gregory of SinaiThe kingdom of heaven is like the tabernacle which was built by God, and which He disclosed to Moses as a pattern (cf. Exodus 25:40); for it too has an outer and an inner sanctuary.

Into the first will enter all who are priests of grace. But into the second – which is noetic [of the illuminated intellect] – will enter only those who in this life have attained the divine darkness of theological wisdom and there as true hierarchs have celebrated the triadic liturgy, entering into the tabernacle that Jesus Himself has set up, where He acts as their consecrator and chief Hierarch before the Trinity, and illumines them ever more richly with His own splendour.

By “many dwelling-places” (John 14:2) the Saviour meant the differing stages of spiritual ascent and states of development in the other world; for although the kingdom of heaven is one, there are many different levels within it.

That is to say, there is place for both heavenly and earthy men (cf. 1 Cor. 15:48) according to their virtue, their knowledge and the degree of deification that they have attained. “For there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars, for one star differs from another star in glory” (1 Cor. 15:41); and yet all of them shine in a single divine firmament.

You partake of angelic life and attain an incorruptible and hence almost bodiless state when you have cleansed your intellect through tears, have through the power of the Spirit resurrected your soul even in this life, and with the help of the Logos [i.e. Christ the Word] have made your flesh – your natural human form of clay – a resplendent and fiery image of divine beauty.

[...] The land of the gentle (Ps. 37: 11) is the kingdom of heaven. Or else it is the theandric [fully divine and fully human] state of the Son, which we have attained or are in the process of attaining, having through grace been reborn as sons of God into the new life of the resurrection.

Or again, the holy land is our human nature when it has been divinized or…the land granted as an inheritance (cf. Numbers 34:13) to those who are truly saints, the untroubled and divine serenity and the peace that transcends the intellect (cf. Phil. 4:7) – the land wherein the righteous dwell quietly and unmolested.

The promised land is dispassion, from which spiritual joy flows like milk and honey (cf. Exod. 13:5). The saints in heaven hold inner converse together, communicating mystically through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On Commandments and Doctrines, chs 43-45, 47-49, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 220-221.

Gregory of Sinai: When We Chasten Our Assailants with the Rod of Dauntless Psalmody, We Become Established in Prayer Saturday, Oct 20 2012 

Many who practice the commandments think they are following the spiritual path. But they have not yet reached the city, and in fact remain outside it.

For they travel foolishly, deviating unawares from the straight highway into side-roads, not realizing how close the vices are to the path of virtue.

For the true fulfillment of the commandments demands that we do neither too little nor too much but simply pursue a course acceptable to God and in accordance with His will.

Otherwise we labor in vain and do not make straight the paths of the Lord (cf. Isa.

40:3). For in everything we do we must be clear about the goal we are pursuing.

To be on the spiritual path means seeking the Lord in your heart through fulfilling the commandments.

For when you listen to John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight’ (Matt. 3:3), you must understand that he is referring to the commandments and their fulfillment both in the heart and in actions.

It is impossible to ‘make straight’ the path of the commandments and to act rightly unless your heart too is straight and upright.

When Scripture speaks of rod and staff (cf. Ps. 23:4), you should take these to signify in the prophetic sense judgment and providence, and in the moral sense psalmody and prayer.

For when we are chastened by the Lord with me rod of correction (cf 1 Cor. 11 :32), this is so that we may learn how to mend our ways.

And when we chasten our assailants with the rod of dauntless psalmody, we become established in prayer.

Since we thus wield the rod and the staff of spiritual action, let us not cease to chasten and be chastened until we are wholly in the hands of providence and escape judgment both now and hereafter.

The essence of the commandments is always to give precedence to the one that embraces them all: mindfulness of God, as stipulated in the phrase, ‘Always be mindful of the Lord your God’ (cf. Deut. 8:18).

Our failure or success in keeping the commandments depends on such mindfulness, for it is this that forgetfulness first destroys when it shrouds the commandments in darkness and strips us of every blessing.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On Commandments and Doctrines, chs 14-17, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 214-216.

Gregory of Sinai: Renewed in the Spirit, Transformed and Embodied in Christ Monday, Nov 21 2011 

If our human nature is not kept pure or else restored to its original purity by the Holy Spirit, it cannot become one body and one spirit in Christ, either in this life or in the harmonious order of the life to come.

For the all-embracing and unifying power of the Spirit does not complete the new garment of grace by sewing on to it a patch taken from the old garment of the passions (cf.Matt. 9:16).

Every person who has been renewed in the Spirit and has preserved this gift will be transformed and embodied in Christ, experiencing ineffably the supernatural state of deification.

But he will not hereafter be one with Christ or be engrafted into His body unless in this life he has come to share in divine grace and has embodied spiritual knowledge and truth.

The kingdom of heaven is like the tabernacle which was built by God, and which He disclosed to Moses as a pattern (cf. Exod. 25:40); for it too has an outer and an inner sanctuary.

Into the first will enter all who are priests of grace. But into the second – which is noetic – will enter only those who in this life have attained the divine darkness of theological wisdom and there as true hierarchs have celebrated the triadic liturgy, entering into the tabernacle that Jesus Himself has set up, where He acts as their consecrator and chief Hierarch before the Trinity, and illumines them ever more richly with His own splendor.

By ‘many dwelling-places’ (John14:2) the Savior meant the differing stages of spiritual ascent and states of  development in the other world; for although the kingdom of heaven is one, there are many different levels within it.

That is to say, there is place for both heavenly and earthy men (cf.1Cor.15:48) according to their virtue, their knowledge and the degree of deification that they have attained.

‘For there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars, for one star differs from another star in glory’(1Cor. 15:41); and yet all of them shine in a single divine firmament.

You partake of angelic life and attain an incorruptible and hence almost bodiless state when you have cleansed your intellect through tears, have through the power of the Spirit resurrected your soul even in this life, and with the help of the Logos have made your flesh – your natural human form of clay – a resplendent and fiery image of divine beauty.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On Commandments and Doctrines, chs 41-45, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 220-221.

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